April 6, 2020

Financial Reporting: SEC Chief Accountant Addresses Covid-19 Issues

On Friday, SEC Chief Accountant Sagar Teotia issued a statement stressing the importance of high-quality financial reporting during the Covid-19 crisis. Many companies are struggling with the reporting implications of Covid-19, and the statement acknowledges that the current environment requires a number of difficult judgment calls:

We recognize that the accounting and financial reporting implications of COVID-19 may require companies to make significant judgments and estimates. Certain judgments and estimates can be challenging in an environment of uncertainty. As we have stated for a number of years, OCA has consistently not objected to well-reasoned judgments that entities have made, and we will continue to apply this perspective.

Teotia’s statement highlights some of the areas that may involve significant judgments and estimates, including fair value and impairments; leases; debt modifications or restructurings; hedging; revenue recognition; income taxes; going concern; subsequent events; and adoption of new accounting standards (e.g., the new credit losses standard). It goes on to emphasize the importance of required disclosures about judgments & estimates involving these and other issues.

The statement also says that financial institutions availing themselves of certain provisions of the CARES Act that allow them to avoid compliance with FASB pronouncements on accounting for credit losses & troubled debt restructurings during the period of the Covid-19 emergency will be regarded by the SEC as being in compliance with GAAP.

Cydney Posner’s recent blog about the Chief Accountant’s statement has a sidebar pointing out that while the new credit losses standard applies to any business that extends credit to customers, only financial institutions are exempt from compliance under the CARES Act – and those other businesses are going to face some significant compliance challenges during the current crisis.

PCAOB: “The Audit Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”

The PCAOB also chimed in last week with a reminder to auditors that, in the current environment, they need to make sure that they keep their eyes on the ball until their audit is completed:

As part of the evaluation of whether sufficient appropriate audit evidence has been obtained, auditors are required to evaluate the appropriateness of their initial risk assessments. In light of the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis, new risks may emerge, or the assessments of previously identified risks may need to be revisited because the expected magnitude and likelihood of misstatement has changed.

Changing incentives or increased pressures on management, especially when taken together with changes in internal controls or increased ability for management override of controls, may result in new risks of material misstatement due to fraud or changes to the auditor’s previous assessment of risks of material misstatement due to fraud. Similarly, increased pressure on, and changes in, management processes, systems, and controls may give rise to increased risk of error. Initial responses to assessed risks may not be adequate given the revised risk assessments, or planned procedures may not be practical or possible to perform under current circumstances.

The PCAOB says that auditors may need to reassess previous risk assessments for some areas of the financial statements in light of COVID-19. It also includes a laundry list of areas of the financial statements where evaluating  presentation & surrounding disclosures are going to be very difficult for auditors. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the PCAOB’s list largely overlaps with Sagar Teotia’s list of aspects of the financial statements that involve significant judgment calls.

Transcript: “Tying ‘ESG’ to Executive Pay”

We have posted the transcript for the recent webcast: “Tying ‘ESG’ to Executive Pay.”

John Jenkins